Jaffe: Cardinal’s huge win is a statistical field day

Oct. 24, 2011, 1:32 a.m.

Saturday’s 65-21 win over Washington was a dream game for Stat on the Back. Here’s a look at how Stanford got it done.

Number of the game: 446

What it means: Stanford had 446 rushing yards against Washington. Yep, that’s really a four in the hundreds place.

Why it matters: Finishing with 146 rushing yards is a decent game (about the average output in a college football game), 246 is a great game (better than any of Stanford’s first six games this year) and 346 is an incredible game.

But 446? That’s historically good. In the 1,176 games Stanford played before Saturday, the Cardinal had never run for that many yards. The previous best was 439, a record that had stood for 30 years. Stanford had only reached the 400-yard mark twice in its history.

Putting up enormous totals is great, and treating the alumni to a spectacle at the Homecoming game helps to energize the fan base. More importantly, though, Stanford proved to the entire country that it can dominate any team it faces in any way it wants.

Pundits across the country have acted like Stanford football is Andrew Luck, and some have gone so far as to say that without Luck, Stanford wouldn’t even be a .500 team. Those “experts” can eat Stepfan Taylor’s dust. And Tyler Gaffney’s. And Anthony Wilkerson’s. And the whole offensive line’s. Let’s just say that there’s a lot of dust to go around.

Luck is great, and there have been countless articles deservedly ogling his saintliness on and off the football field. He had an efficient game through the air and his best game of the season on the ground, and his play-calling was perfectly executed. But for once, this wasn’t about Luck. This wasn’t even a “see, other people can do things too” game.

This was a statement. Stanford is a great team with a great coach, great defense, great offense, great running backs, great quarterback, great receivers, great fullbacks, great tight ends and great lineman. Luck is just one of the many pieces to the Stanford puzzle.

Other notable numbers:

17: While looking at all these stats, don’t forget that Stanford wasn’t playing Directional State. This was supposed to be the toughest test of the season for the Cardinal, and Washington came in with a BCS ranking. Further, the Huskies came in ranked 17th in the country in run defense. Washington had allowed 62 yards or fewer on the ground in four of its six games this season. For the year, the Huskies had only given up 582 yards on the season before giving up 446 to Stanford. This one performance dropped Washington 40 spots from 17th in the country to 57th.

348: The trio of Taylor, Gaffney and Wilkerson combined for 348 rushing yards and four touchdowns on just 33 carries. Each had his own highlights, including a run of at least 34 yards for each. Wilkerson was just seven yards from being Stanford’s third 100-yard rusher of the game, which has never happened in Cardinal history. Washington had allowed just one 100-yard rusher in its first six games.

65: Stanford didn’t waste its yards, racking up 65 points on Washington. That is the second-most points the Cardinal has ever scored in conference play, trailing only the 82 scored by Pop Warner’s 1925 Stanford team against UCLA. Overall, the 65 points are the seventh most in Stanford history and second most in the past 35 years.

21: Even while scoring all these points, Luck threw the ball just 21 times. He was efficient with his passes, completing 16 for 169 yards and two touchdowns, but he did not have to do much. In the post-Toby Gerhart era, the 21 attempts were the second fewest by Luck, trailing only the 20 from last year’s Big Game. Combined score of those two games: 113-35 Stanford.

107: After allowing just 59.5 rushing yards per game, Stanford gave up 107 yards on two long runs by Chris Polk in the first half. The absence of injured safety Delano Howell was all too evident in the tackling problems faced by Stanford’s secondary.

1: Polk’s 143 first-half rushing yards were followed by just a single rushing yard in the second half. As it has all season, Stanford’s defense buckled down in the second half, helping the Cardinal to outscore the Huskies 48-7 after Polk’s second touchdown.

20: Once the ball gets to the 20-yard line, Stanford goes from being one of the nation’s best teams to the undisputed best in the country. The Cardinal scored on all seven of its red zone possessions on Saturday, keeping Stanford perfect on the season at 38-for-38. Every other team in the country has come up empty at least once in the red zone. On the other side of the ball, the Cardinal is second in the nation at keeping opponents off the scoreboard inside the 20. One of the biggest reasons is…

2-for-11: One of the silliest stats you’ll ever see is opponent field-goal percentage. But in the case of Stanford, it has gotten absurd. For the season, the Cardinal’s opponents have made just two of their 11 attempts, good for an 18-percent success rate. This is especially surprising considering those same kickers have combined to make 26 of their 32 attempts against everyone else, good for an 81-percent success rate.

0: In what might be Stanford’s most impressive stat, the Cardinal has trailed a grand total of zero times this season. Zero is also the number of other FBS teams that can say that.

10: Okay, maybe this is Stanford’s most impressive stat. The Cardinal has now won 10 straight games by 25 points or more. No team has ever done that in the 75-year history of college football’s poll system.

6: More important than any of these stats is Stanford’s standing in the BCS. The Cardinal currently ranks sixth, and with the upsets of Oklahoma and Wisconsin, Stanford’s path to the BCS National Championship Game is getting increasingly simple. At this point, if the Cardinal wins its next six games (a tall order to be sure), Stanford would likely need just one upset of Oklahoma State to earn a spot in the title game, because the Cardinal’s computer ranking should improve enough in the coming weeks to pass Boise State and Clemson.

2005: Stanford will travel to the L.A. Coliseum to take on USC this Saturday. The last time the Trojans beat the Cardinal in Los Angeles was 2005, marking the longest home drought USC has against any of the former Pac-10 teams. With ESPN’s College GameDay on campus, Saturday will prove if the Coliseum really has become a second home for the Cardinal.

 

Jacob Jaffe will be heading down to the friendly confines of the Coliseum on Saturday when Stanford takes on USC. He firmly believes that ESPN College Gameday’s Lee Corso will be suiting up in Trojan armor, but wants to know what other foolish things Corso will do on set. Let him know at jwjaffe “at” stanford.edu or on Twitter @Jacob_Jaffe.

 

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